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The Real Appeal of Naturals

By: Giles Bovill
Posted: March 3, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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To consumers, perfume is both a statement (an expression of self) and something to be consumed and savored, positioning the fragrance industry somewhere between fashion and food. With the food industry as a parallel analogy, the proof is in the pudding. A poor quality dish will be shunned instantly, regardless of its presentation or the celebrity of its chef. Equally, a well-prepared dish made of the finest ingredients will satisfy without the need for excessive trimmings. Quality cannot be feigned and will never go out of fashion. The same applies to perfumes.

Natural ingredients are perceived by consumers as quality ingredients and as “better for you.” The greater the percentage of natural ingredients within a product, the more reassured the consumer tends to feel. Consumers perceive that developments within the food industry have set the standard for natural ingredients in other industries. In addition to health and well-being, global issues such as the environment and ethics are prominent in consumers’ minds, and now contribute significantly to the purchasing decision. Not only are ingredients by law wholly disclosed, consumers also expect to know the origins of foodstuffs. Organic and fair-trade markets have proven their potential, and consumers are now well educated on growing, traceability and trading conditions. In fact, consumers are demanding even more information on their preferred brands. To wit, there has been an increased interest in documentaries about the source of some of favorite food items, such as coffee and chocolate.

The trend for naturals lends itself logically to the perfume industry, as consumers discover the benefits of sustainable living and are charmed by the idea of purity. The lead taken by food manufacturers some years ago has created ample leverage for perfume houses to follow suit.

Accountability and Endearment

Uncovering the source of a particular component shows a manufacturer to be open, accountable and responsible. More importantly, the emphasis is brought back to the essentials—the quality and inherent characteristics of the raw materials themselves. Naturals are a product of the world’s resources. The possibilities for new and exciting formulations are endless, and Mother Nature never ceases to amaze. It is also something everyone experiences every day, without exception. If this dimension of a product is presented to consumers, it is almost guaranteed to resonate.

With an awareness of the story behind an ingredient, consumers can identify with what they have in front of them. An appreciation of the provenance of naturals adds to the allure already associated with a beautiful scent. And proclaiming the journey from crop to counter can strengthen consumer affinity to a product. Take ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata), for instance. Consumers will readily identify the rich, deep and sensuous character of this oil. They may also be interested to know that the flowers are distilled after careful selection and cultivation by the farmers. In addition, the peace of mind gained from the fact that these particular growers are protected under fair-trade conditions and receive a premium price for their product endears users and instills consumer loyalty to a brand, leading to repeat purchases.

Moving Forward